Going Home After Surgery
Whether you have been an inpatient (staying in the hospital after surgery) or outpatient (going home the same day of surgery), your doctor will decide when you are ready to go home. Before you go, your doctor or nurse will answer any questions you may have about home care. You will need a family member or friend to listen to these instructions with you, drive you home and help with your recovery.
Good post-op care helps you heal quickly and safely so:
- Follow all instructions and guidelines you are given
- Know how to care for your incision
- Learn how to control any pain or discomfort
- Know the signs of problems after surgery
- Know when to call your surgeon
Eating the Right Foods
At first, you may only want liquids (tea, soda, flavored gelatin or clear soup). Eventually, you’ll feel ready to move onto soft foods like mashed potatoes or applesauce, which will provide more nutrition and still go down easily. Then, try high-protein solid foods like beans, yogurt, fish or chicken. Tell your doctor if you have food allergies or special food needs.
It’s normal to lose fluids during surgery. Drinking liquids helps you feel better and balances your body’s chemicals. Drink 6 to 8 glasses of water a day (6-8 ounces each), unless you’ve been told not to. Watch for dark yellow urine (a sign that you may not be getting enough fluids).
Try foods that are easy to digest, like clear soup, toast, crackers, ginger ale and gelatin. Avoid fatty foods that stay in your stomach a long time. Eat small amounts more often. And drink bubbly liquids to help you burp.
Call your surgeon if you still have nausea, vomiting or diarrhea 12 hours after surgery.
Becoming More Active
After surgery, you’re likely to feel tired. So get plenty of rest to give your body time to heal. However, exercise is an important part of recovery and overall health, so you’ll want to begin by walking as long as you can without losing your breath. Slowly increase your level of activity until you are back to normal. Follow your surgeon’s advice about deep breathing, coughing, driving and other activities.
Breathing and Coughing
To help clear your lungs and prevent pneumonia, you may be shown how to deep-breathe and cough after surgery.
- If you were sent home with a spirometer, use it as you have been shown.
- After minor surgery, breathe deeply and cough regularly for 1 to 2 days.
- After major surgery, breathe deeply and cough regularly until the pain from your incision is gone.
- Support your incision with a pillow when you cough.
- To avoid lung problems, don’t smoke.
Follow Up Care
Successful surgery includes follow-up care. Your surgeon needs to check your healing and see that you’re recovering safely. Ask when to return for your first follow-up visit and who to call to make an appointment. Also ask when you will have your stitches, staples, tubes or drains removed.
If you’ve been taking medications for diabetes, heart disease or some other condition, ask your doctor about taking them while you recover. This can help you avoid side effects.
Returning to Work
Going back to work depends on your surgery and the type of work that you do. Your surgeon will decide when you can return to work. Often, it’s four to six weeks after major surgery and a few days after minor surgery. You may still be tired, so take frequent breaks during your workday and rest when you go home.
You may have to avoid particularly strenuous job activities such as operating heavy machinery or heavy lifting until cleared by your surgeon.